Restrictive net metering policy harming Indian rooftop solar, say analysts

The Indian government’s evident desire to support growth in its solar rooftop sector is being undermined by a net metering policy that is too restrictive, reports analyst firm Bridge to India.

Having seen capacity in the sector increase significantly in the past 12 months, the issue of poor net metering is becoming more acute across nearly all Indian states.

A survey of 15 industry professionals conducted by Bridge to India found widespread frustration with how the policy framework continues to hold back rooftop PV progression, with connection delays of up to 90-100 days reported in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.

The Bridge to India survey asked industry players to rate states based on average time for connection, process transparency and clarity DISCOM support and competence, meter availability, and support for different business models.

According to the results of the survey, the top-performing states were Delhi, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Rajasthan, but the overall impression gleaned from the feedback was one of patchy implementation of net metering nationwide, often because of varying interpretation of the policy by local authorities.

Bridge to India’s analysis of these results finds a situation that is worsening rather than improving as the sector expands, with the efficacy of policy design – or lack thereof – harming rooftop solar growth.

"Most net metering policies in India are based on the guiding regulations issued by Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) in 2013," said a Bridge to India analyst note. "In our view, these are too restrictive and need an urgent overhaul to relax constraints on system size, type of connections, consumer categories and business models."

The analysts add that progressive Indian states should look to overseas at best practice when it comes to net metering, and to use their learned experiences to help improve the policy framework. International examples show that an effective net metering scheme can boost the uptake of rooftop solar in a country by as much as 50%, Bridge to India concluded.